Creative Consultation: more than just boards in a dusty village hall

MPC has been experimenting with the way we hold community consultation events. Where we can, we avoid inviting people to faraway places to spend time inside a room looking at lots of boards. Instead, we aim to speak to people where they are, in interesting environments.

Estate Regeneration

MPC is working with Lambeth Council on a community consultation programme as plans for the rebuild of Cressingham Gardens Estate progresses. We have held events for residents on the estate – in the dedicated “community hub” – so people can really get to know us, and we them.

The Cressingham Gardens Design Team want The Hub to be used as a place where we can discuss the wider plans, including future open spaces, greenery and landscaping. Our events have been full of colour, excitement and fun. The intention is to encourage participation from across the estate, in a variety of ways and formats, that should hopefully cater to a range of comfort levels and abilities of people who are living on the estate and ultimately whose homes make up the area considered for rebuilding.

One of the events we have already hosted was a treasure hunt which saw children who live on the estate work through complex clues hidden all over Cressingham Gardens to find pirate treasure. As well as this, we gave children disposable cameras, so they could take pictures of what they like about their estate, and then posted the pictures at The Hub. The children had a great time, exclaiming that this was “the most fun they’d ever had”. The impact we had was striking.

Another event saw us invite Cressingham Gardens residents to The Hub for plant potting, gardening and lunch. A further event saw us invite people for a relaxing afternoon of tea, cake, and conversations about the long and interesting history of the estate and the diverse community.

Across all events, we spoke with parents about their local aspirations, while still ensuring that the kids had a fun time too. As a result, we have built relationships which will hopefully last long into the programme of consultation.

New Garden Settlement

Letchworth – the world first Garden City – is rich in heritage and a great place to live. MPC has been working with local partners to help ensure it remains so. We have been asking residents about their aspirations for their town in line with the founding Garden City principles which give Letchworth its unique character.

Similarly to Cressingham Gardens, we have mostly been speaking to residents where they already are – popping up on Letchworth’s high streets, at Halloween events and other key cultural celebrations.

Our first event took place at the popular Standalone Farm in October, during half term holidays. We invited people who were already on site attending the farm's pumpkin carving weekend to give feedback. Again, we avoided the regular event setup by running an art competition for children – alongside our conversations with parents – asking children to draw what they love about Letchworth, of which there were plenty.

Our next pop-up event was at the arts and craft festival. Crucially, we spoke to people who were visiting Letchworth – in addition to locals – who may not have otherwise provided their unique perspectives about the town. Further events saw us speak to people at a retail space, a local cinema and in the town centre. The high footfall gave us an even more representative sample of views. As a result of these events, we have had in-depth conversations with lots of interesting people – building further bridges with local partners and mitigating risk further on in the planning process.

This is something we all really enjoy at MPC – making genuine connections with local people in unique environments. It leads to tangible results for residents and our clients, and is one of the many reasons why we are so good at what we do.

This article was written by Kashif Taher, Account Executive